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Hiatt, John

John Hiatt

Singer, songwriter

Propelled by Anguish

Enlivened the Mundane

Revered by Honky-Tonk Buddies

Selected discography

Sources

Singer-songwriter John Hiatt has been an important figure in rock music, a flipside to many rock artists who live by the guitar and the groove. Rock audiences, no less than their Broadway counterparts, value the perfect line of lyric that flashes with wit or cuts to the bone of a painful story. Wordsmith John Hiatt has gradually risen to prominence by converting his personal tragedies into a lengthy catalogue of recordings.

Hiatts raspy, blues-based singing has been compared with that of Bruce Springsteen. Dabbling in several styles of music, including what Rolling Stone critic Ira Robbins cited as heartland rock, Philly soul, stately folk [and] countrified swing, Hiatt has consistently assembled fine backup groups featuring such rock stalwarts as Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe. Ultimately, however, Hiatts skill as a lyricist is the thread that ties his music together.

Hiatt turned to writing during a traumatic childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana; within a two-year span his father died, and his older brother committed suicide. Hiatt eventually sought fame and fortune in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked his way up from a $25-a-week staff songwriting job at Tree Publishing, one of the citys largest musical enterprises. With the exception of a stint in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, Hiatt has always maintained his base of operations in Nashville. He credited the country songwriting environment for influencing his later compositions and adding directness and sincerity to his innate storytelling tendencies.

Hiatt passed through a southern-fried-rock phase while recording for Epic and MCA in Nashville in the late 1970s, then veered from folkish restraint to punk-influenced anger in Los Angeles In the early 1980s he was dropped by Geffen Records following the commercial failure of 1983s Riding With the King, and its 1985 successor, Warming up to the Ice Age both of which were critically lauded. All of Hiatts early releases, though favorably received by many critics, failed to catch the attention of the music-buying public. He did not hit his stride commercially until signing with A&M Records in 1987, a success due in part to the strength and honesty of his songwriting.

Propelled by Anguish

Hiatts creative activity has often been fueled by personal crises. The night [his daughter] Lilly was born, I was in a Mexican restaurant barfing on my shoe, Hiatt told Rolling Stone reporter Steve Hochman. As Hiatt descended into the final depths of a long alcohol addiction in 1985, his estranged wife committed suicide, leaving him with the responsibility of caring for one-year-old Lilly. Hiatt permanently renounced alcohol and drugs and once again began the long process of putting his life back together. Fleeing Los Angeles for the

For the Record

Born c. 1952 in Indianapolis, IN; married third wife, Nancy, 1986; children: (first marriage) Lilly and Georgia Rae. Education: Attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Schools, Indianapolis.

Has composed more than 600 songs; recorded solo material for Epic Records, 197475; MCA Records, 197980; Geffen Records, 198285; A&M Records, 198794; and Capitol Records, 199599; host of public television series Sessions At West 45th, 1999; released first album on Vanguard Records, the Grammy Award-nominated Crossing Muddy Waters, 2000; released The Tiki Bar is Open with the Goners, 2001. Also a member of the band Little Village; backing bands include the Guilty Dogs and the Goners.

Awards: Artist/Songwriter of the Year, Nashville Music Awards, 2000.

Addresses: Record company Vanguard Records, 2700 Pennsylvania Ave., Santa Monica, CA, website: http://www.vanguardrecords.com. Management Vector Management, P.O. Box 120479, Nashville, TN 37212. Booking Principle Artists, 9777 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 1018, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, phone: (310) 274-6888. WebsiteJohn Hiatt Official Website: http://www.johnhiatt.com.

comparative tranquillity of Nashville, Hiatt met his third wife, Nancy, also a single parent and a recovering alcoholic.

Thus fortified, Hiatt returned to songwriting with a vengeance, reaching a new plateau of commercial success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Slow Turning rose to number 98 on Billboards charts in 1988, staying on the charts for an impressive 31 weeks; Bring the Family and Stolen Moments, from 1987 and 1990 respectively, also had consistent sales. These three recordings elicited strong praise from rock musics critics. Kevin Ransom of the Metro Times described the albums as arguably the smartest, most compelling pop-music trilogy released by a single artist over the last three years. In Musician, Dan Martino wrote that Hiatt has bared more of himself on Bring the Family than he ever has before. And its his best album ever. All three recordings were notable for their concentration of autobiographical material: harrowing, howling scenes of alcoholic despair, reminiscences of Hiatts own youth, and serene love songs that reflected his newfound stability.

Enlivened the Mundane

As Peter J. Smith of the New York Times suggested, Hiatts narrative songs are reminiscent of good, short car rides with the top down. Hiatt has long specialized in fast-moving, vivid stories that often conclude with some type of ironic twist, a technique for which he has been compared to acclaimed short story writer Raymond Carver. In the song Trudy and Dave on Slow Turning, for example, two spaced-out, small-town criminals have riddled an automatic-teller machine with gunfire in order to get money to do their laundry. In the end, the song wryly recounts, the twosome drove away clean. Hiatt likewise has excelled at drawing small, intense pictures of everyday encounters: Icy Blue Heart, also from Slow Turning, sketched a sad, defensive barroom conversation between a man and a woman. The songs male narrator muses, Should I start/To turn whats been frozen for years / Into a river of tears?

In early 1992 Hiatt reunited with band members from his five-year-old breakthrough album Bring the Family: guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Nick Lowe, and drummer Jim Keltner. They formed a group called Little Village and put out a self-titled work. While the band recaptured the spontaneity that marked Bring the Family, Hiatts contributions continued to mine territory already traversed on his solo recordings. Performance over perfection. Thats totally what this album is about, Keltner commented in the Virginia Pilot.

Revered by Honky-Tonk Buddies

Hiatt seems likely to continue widening his circle of admirers. Country musicians have been drawn to his outrageous rhymes, and several of the most prominent artists in the country field, including Rodney Crowell, Earl Thomas Conley, and Rosanne Cash, have taken Hiatts songs to the top of the country charts. More popular than any of Hiatts own recordings is his witty rock composition Thing Called Love, which went a long way toward insuring the runaway success of Bonnie Raitts 1989 Nick of Time album; American airwaves resounded with Hiatts lines, I aint no porcupine, take off your kid gloves. / Are you ready for this thing called love? for months.

Hiatt released Perfectly Good Guitarin 1993, produced by Matt Wallace, which peaked at number 47 on the charts. Jason Cohen of Rolling Stone called the album the usual menu of love-struck laments and bluesy balladry augmented by surrealist, goofy story songs and a reliable punk-meets-bar-band crunch. Hiatts first live album, Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan?, was released in 1994. Hiatt left A&M Records that year, signing with Capitol in 1995. His first Capitol release was Walk On, which entered the charts at 48, but dropped off in just nine weeks. Another Capitol released followed in 1997, called Little Head. Though generally a critical success, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of All Music Guide commented: Its supposed to be a lighthearted record, but the humor is so labored and the music so forced that it largely falls flat. Hiatt became the host for the public television music performance series Sessions At West 45th in 1999.

Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album, the acoustic album Crossing Muddy Waters followed on Vanguard Records in 2000. In a move to broaden his fan base, Hiatt signed a distribution deal with Emusic, a website that provides downloadable music for a fee, to offer the album in a digital format; the release of the album on the Internet coincided with its release on disc. The deal was successful: Crossing Muddy Waters was the fifth biggest-selling album on the Internet the week of its release, and a pre-release of the song Lincoln Town was downloaded 4,000 times in its first month on the website.

Hiatt released The Tiki Bar is Open in 2001, the first album to feature his backing band the Goners since Slow Turning in 1988. Comprised of guitarist Sonny Landreth, bassist Dave Ranson, and drummer Kenneth Blevins, the groups collaborative reunion with Hiatt on the album perfectly captures the phenomenon of John Hiatt and the Goners, Hiatt is quoted on his website. Hiatt and the Goners planned to tour in 2002.

Hiatts songwriting mastery stems from years of practice and intense musical pursuits. Ive always written songs, whether I was making records or not, he told Musicians Josef Woodard. It serves a lot of purposes for me. Im good at working by myself; its therapeutic. Its a means of focusing my world, my views, and explaining some things to myself.

Selected discography

Hanging Around the Observatory, Epic, 1974, reissued; Epic/Legacy, 1991.

Overcoats, Epic, 1975; reissued, 1991.

Slug Line, MCA, 1979; reissued, 1990.

Two-Bit Monsters, MCA, 1980; reissued, 1990.

All of a Sudden, Geffen, 1982.

Riding With the King, Geffen, 1983.

Warming up to the Ice Age, Geffen, 1985.

Bring the Family, A&M, 1987.

Slow Turning (includes Trudy and Dave and Icy Blue Heart), A&M, 1988.

Stolen Moments, A&M, 1990.

Yall Caught?: The Ones That Got Away, 1979-1985, Geffen, 1989.

(With Little Village) Little Village, Reprise, 1992.

Perfectly Good Guitar, A&M, 1993.

Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan?, A&M, 1994.

Walk On, Capitol, 1995.

Little Head, Capitol, 1997.

The Best of John Hiatt, Capitol, 1998.

Greatest Hits: The A&M Years 87-94, A&M, 1998.

Crossing Muddy Waters, Vanguard, 2000.

The Tiki Bar is Open, Vanguard, 2001.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, July 31, 1999; August 25, 2001.

Down Beat, September 1990.

Metro Times (Detroit, Ml), August 1, 1990.

Musician, May 1985; August 1987; March 1992.

New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1989.

PR Newswire, January 8, 2001.

Rolling Stone, September 10, 1987; July 12-26, 1990; October 18, 1990.

Time, April 18, 1988.

Variety, November 13, 2000.

Village Voice, March 12, 1985.

Virginia Pilot (Norfolk, VA), October 25, 1991.

Online

John Hiatt, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 4, 2002).

John Hiatt Official Website, http://www.johnhiatt.com (January 2, 2002).

John Hiatt: Perfectly Good Guitar, RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/recordings/review.asp?aid=33459&cf=314 (January 4, 2002).

James M. Manheim

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"Hiatt, John." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Hiatt, John." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hiatt-john-0

Hiatt, John

John Hiatt

Singer, songwriter

Propelled by Anguish

Enlivened the Mundane

Revered by Honky-Tonk Buddies

Selected discography

Sources

Singer-songwriter John Hiatt has been an important and enduring figure in rock music, a flipside to many rock artists who live by the guitar and the groove. Rock audiences, no less than their Broadway counterparts, value the perfect line of lyric that flashes with wit or cuts to the bone of a painful story. Over the last several years, wordsmith John Hiatt has gradually risen to prominence by converting his personal tragedies into a lengthy catalogue of recordings.

Hiatts raspy, blues-based singing has been compared with that of Bruce Springsteen. Dabbling in several styles of music, including what Rolling Stone critic Ira Robbins cited as heartland rock, Philly soul, stately folk [and] countrified swing, Hiatt has consistently assembled fine backup groups featuring such rock stalwarts as Ry Cooder and Nick Lowe. Ultimately, however, Hiatts skill as a lyricist is the thread that ties his music together.

Hiatt turned to writing during a traumatic childhood in Indianapolis, Indiana; within a two-year span his father died, and his older brother committed suicide. Hiatt eventually sought fame and fortune in the country music capital of Nashville, Tennessee, where he worked his way up from a $25-a-week staff songwriting job at Tree Publishing, one of the citys largest musical enterprises. With the exception of a stint in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, Hiatt has always maintained his base of operations in Nashville. He credited the country songwriting environment for influencing his later compositions and adding directness and sincerity to his innate storytelling tendencies.

Hiatt passed through a southern-fried-rock phase while recording for Epic and MCA in Nashville in the late 1970s, then veered from folkish restraint to punk-influenced anger in Los Angeles. In the early 1980s he was dropped by Geffen Records following the commercial failure of 1983s Riding With the King, and its 1985 successor, Warming up to the Ice Age both of which were critically lauded. All of Hiatts early releases, though favorably received by many critics, failed to catch the attention of the music-buying public. He did not hit his stride commercially until signing with A&M Records in 1987, a success due in part to the strength and honesty of his songwriting.

Propelled by Anguish

Hiatts creative activity has often been fueled by personal crises. The night [his daughter] Lilly was born, I was in a Mexican restaurant barfing on my shoe, Hiatt told Rolling Stone reporter Steve Hochman. As Hiatt descended into the final depths of a long alcohol

For the Record

Born c. 1952 in Indianapolis, IN; married third wife, Nancy, 1986; children: Lilly and Georgia Rae. Education: Attended Immaculate Heart of Mary Schools, Indianapolis. Religion: Raised Roman Catholic.

Has composed more than 600 songs; recorded solo material for Epic Records, 1974-75; MCA Records, 1979-80; Geffen Records, 1982-85; and A&M Records, 1987. Also a member of the band Little Village.

Addresses: Record company A&M Records, 595 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022.

addiction in 1985, his estranged wife committed suicide, leaving him with the responsibility of caring for one-year-old Lilly. Hiatt permanently renounced alcohol and drugs and once again began the long process of putting his life back together. Fleeing Los Angeles for the comparative tranquillity of Nashville, Hiatt met his third wife, Nancy, also a single parent and a recovering alcoholic.

Thus fortified, Hiatt returned to songwriting with a vengeance, reaching a new plateau of commercial success in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Slow Turning rose to Number 98 on Billboards charts in 1988, staying on the charts for an impressive 31 weeks; Bring the Family and Stolen Moments, from 1987 and 1990 respectively, also had consistent sales. These three recordings elicited strong praise from rock musics critics. Kevin Ransom of the Metro Times described the albums as arguably the smartest, most compelling pop-music trilogy released by a single artist over the last three years. In Musician, Dan Martino wrote that Hiatt has bared more of himself on Bring the Family than he ever has before. And its his best album ever. All three recordings were notable for their concentration of autobiographical material: harrowing, howling scenes of alcoholic despair, reminiscences of Hiatts own youth, and serene love songs that reflected his newfound stability.

Enlivened the Mundane

As Peter J. Smith of the New York Times suggested, Hiatts narrative songs are reminiscent of good, short car rides with the top down. Hiatt has long specialized in fast-moving, vivid stories that often conclude with some type of ironic twist, a technique for which he has been compared to acclaimed short story writer Raymond Carver. In the song Trudy and Dave on Slow Turning, for example, two spaced-out, small-town criminals have riddled an automatic-teller machine with gunfire in order to get money to do their laundry. In the end, the song wryly recounts, the twosome drove away clean. Hiatt likewise has excelled at drawing small, intense pictures of everyday encounters: Icy Blue Heart, also from Slow Turning, sketched a sad, defensive barroom conversation between a man and a woman. The songs male narrator muses, Should I start / To turn whats been frozen for years/Into a river of tears?

In early 1992 Hiatt reunited with band members from his five-year-old breakthrough album Bring the Family: guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Nick Lowe, and drummer Jim Keltner. They formed a group called Little Village and put out a self-titled work. While the band recaptured the spontaneity that marked Bring the Family, Hiatts contributions continued to mine territory already traversed on his solo recordings. Performance over perfection. Thats totally what this album is about, Keltner commented in the Virginia Pilot.

Revered by Honky-Tonk Buddies

Hiatt seems likely to continue widening his circle of admirers. Country musicians have been drawn to his outrageous rhymes, and several of the most prominent artists in the country field, including Rodney Crowell, Earl Thomas Conley, and Rosanne Cash, have taken Hiatts songs to the top of the country charts. More popular than any of Hiatts own recordings is his witty rock composition Thing Called Love, which went a long way toward insuring the runaway success of Bonnie Raitts 1989 Nick of Time album; American airwaves resounded with Hiatts lines, I aint no porcupine, take off your kid gloves. / Are you ready for this thing called love? for months.

Hiatts songwriting mastery stems from years of practice and intense musical pursuits. Ive always written songs, whether I was making records or not, he told Musicians Josef Woodard. It serves a lot of purposes for me. Im good at working by myself; its therapeutic. Its a means of focusing my world, my views, and explaining some things to myself.

Selected discography

Hanging Around the Observatory, Epic, 1974, reissued, Epic/Legacy, 1991.

Overcoats, Epic, 1975, reissued, 1991.

Slug Line, MCA, 1979, reissued, 1990.

Two-Bit Monsters, MCA, 1980, reissued, 1990.

All of a Sudden, Geffen, 1982.

Riding With the King, Geffen, 1983.

Warming up to the Ice Age, Geffen, 1985.

Bring the Family, A&M, 1987.

Slow Turning (includes Trudy and Dave and Icy Blue Heart), A&M, 1988.

Stolen Moments, A&M, 1990.

Yall Caught?: The Ones That Got Away, 1979-1985, Geffen, 1989.

(With Little Village) Little Village, Reprise, 1992.

Sources

Down Beat, September 1990.

Metro Times (Detroit), August 1, 1990.

Musician, May 1985; August 1987; March 1992.

New York Times Magazine, March 12, 1989.

Rolling Stone, September 10, 1987; July 12-26, 1990; October 18, 1990.

Time, April 18, 1988.

Village Voice, March 12, 1985.

Virginia Pilot (Norfolk, VA), October 25, 1991.

James M. Manheim

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Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
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"Hiatt, John." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hiatt, John." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hiatt-john

"Hiatt, John." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/hiatt-john

Hiatt, John

JOHN HIATT

Born: Indianapolis, Indiana, 20 August 1952

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Perfectly Good Guitar (1993)

Hit songs since 1990: "Perfectly Good Guitar"


Although John Hiatt has been one of America's most prolific singer/songwriters since the early 1970s, it was not until the 1990s that he began to earn widespread acclaim. Growing up in Indianapolis, Hiatt found himself drawn to the music of the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Later, after having become a successful, established artist, Hiatt often told the story of hearing Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" as a youngster for the first time on the car radio while waiting for his mother to return; he recalled worrying that his mother would not recognize him upon her return.

Hiatt moved to Nashville in 1971 and began his musical career, writing hits for Three Dog Night and Conway Twitty, among other artists. In 1974 he released his debut album, Hangin' Around the Observatory, which established his folk-rock sound and his wry, lyrical humor. After Hiatt's first two albums failed to garner much public attention, Hiatt tried his hand at a new-wave audience with Slug Line (1979); although critics continued to applaud his inventive work, Hiatt had yet to reach a broad record-buying audience.

In the 1980s Hiatt recorded albums at a torrid pace, releasing nearly an album a year. His efforts culminated in the masterpiece Bring the Family (1986). As an indication of his growing reputation among his peers, Hiatt assembled an ensemble cast to serve as his backing band on the album; he was joined by musical luminaries Ry Cooder (guitar), Nick Lowe (bass), and Jim Keltner (drums). Bring the Family expanded Hiatt's sound to incorporate blues and country influences. A cult favorite, the album was Hiatt's first to chart, peaking at 107 on the Billboard album listings. Rolling Stone magazine recognized the album as one of the Top 100 of the decade.

Hiatt's profile rose quickly when other artists began scoring hits with his songs. In 1988 the Jeff Healey band enjoyed Top 40 success with a cover of the bluesy ballad "Angel Eyes" from Bring the Family. The blues-rocker Bonnie Raitt used "Thing Called Love," also from Bring the Family, as the springboard for her comeback in 1989. During the 1990s a diverse array of artists covered Hiatt, including Bob Dylan, Ronnie Milsap, Iggy Pop, Jewel, and Counting Crows. In 1993 Rhino Records paid tribute to Hiatt by releasing Love Gets Strange: The Songs of John Hiatt, an anthology of Hiatt songs recorded by other artists. Hiatt put his solo career in the early 1990s on hiatus to join much-ballyhooed supergroup Little Village. Essentially, a reunion of the band that recorded Bring the Family, the album was a critical and commercial disappointment. During the tour supporting the album, conflicting egos sealed the band's fate; when the tour concluded, the band split up.

Hiatt returned to the solo fold in 1993 with Perfectly Good Guitar. Recorded in two weeks with members of the alternative bands School of Fish and Wire Train, Perfectly Good Guitar remains Hiatt's most commercially successful album and features one of his most-beloved songs, "Perfectly Good Guitar," in which Hiatt wittily jabs at the grunge acts who had recently renewed the rock tradition of beating up their guitars onstage: "There ought to be a law with no bail / Smash a guitar and you'll go to jail / With no chance for early parole / You don't get out till you get some soul." The pounding music reaches a crescendo with the memorable chorus, a Hiatt classic: "It breaks my heart to see those stars smashing a perfectly good guitar."

In keeping with Hiatt's enhanced critical and commercial cachet, his albums of the late 1990s were star-studded affairs; in addition to Bonnie Raitt, members of the Jayhawks, Cracker, and Counting Crows appeared on Hiatt albums such as Walk On (1995) and Crossing Muddy Waters (2000). The latter album, Hiatt's first for Vanguard Records, was a predominantly acoustic album with an organic, back-porch feel; it features only Hiatt and the multi-instrumentalists Davey Faragher (Cracker) and David Immergluck (Counting Crows). For the acclaimed Crossing Muddy Waters Hiatt received the Artist/Songwriter of the Year Award at the Nashville Music Awards in 2000. That same year Hiatt also had the distinction of having rock legends Eric Clapton and B.B. King cover his song "Ridin' with the King" in their long-anticipated duets album, which they also titled Ridin' with the King.

Hiatt returned to electric music on The Tiki Bar Is Open (2002), reuniting with his backing band the Goners for the first time since Slow Turning (1988). The critically acclaimed album includes musical nods to Hiatt influences such as the Band, the Beatles, and Little Feat. Always unpredictable, Hiatt resurfaced in 2002 as the producer of the soundtrack of the Disney movie The Country Bears. In addition to performing songs himself, Hiatt also wrote new songs for the soundtrack performers, Krystal Marie Harris and Jennifer Paige.

Prolific and versatile, John Hiatt has earned the respect of critics, peers, and a small segment of the record-buying public with an enduring collection of roots-oriented American songs.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Hangin' Around the Observatory (Epic Records, 1974); Slug Line (Universal Records, 1979); Two Bit Monsters (MCA Records, 1980); Riding with the King (Geffen Records, 1983); Bring the Family (A&M Records, 1987); Slow Turning (A&M Records, 1988); Stolen Moments (A&M Records, 1990); Perfectly Good Guitar (A&M Records, 1993); Walk On (Capitol Records, 1995); Crossing Muddy Waters (Vanguard Records, 2000); The Tiki Bar Is Open (Vanguard Records, 2001).

scott tribble

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"Hiatt, John." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Hiatt, John." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 18, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hiatt-john

"Hiatt, John." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved August 18, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/hiatt-john